We at the Sleeping Shaman like ourselves a nice slice of doom now and then and who better to provide some of the thickest and most salty slices of it than Germany’s Ahab. The nautical doom pioneers have a new album in store for those who love a good story and it sure as hell ain’t a sea shanty.
The Boats Of The Glen Carrig is a heavy album that carries literary references and a poetic approach to their music. Surprisingly gentle at one moment and surging wildly the other, the band has reinvented itself. We got in touch with drummer Cornelius Althammer and asked him about album number four, literary inspirations, water and other wet topics, so enjoy…
Hello, I hope you guys are keeping well as we creep into the grip of winter.
For my taste that old fucker doesn’t have to appear at all. I like sun and warmth… But inside the rehearsal space weather doesn’t play a big role. So everything is going fine for us, we just spent a weekend rehearsing for our upcoming tour.
You recently released another great album The Boats Of The Glen Carrig, which is out now on Napalm Records. What can you tell us about the writing and recording process of the album? And what has the feedback so far been like?
Finally we had that kind of writing process all of us ever wanted. Ideas were brought to the rehearsal space where they were composed into songs by all of us. Every song has undergone this process. On our previous album The Giant we already had started to work this way, but about 40-50% of the songs had been composed by Daniel Droste alone at home. It’s not like these were bad ones, but Ahab feel as much more like a band that does things jointly. Each one of us loves to hang out in the rehearsal room and create music with the other dudes.
The process itself went as probably every single band on the planet. Some songs just ‘happen’, other ones need a very long time. We didn’t stop until all the four of us were happy with every single note on the album. The process of recording was very stressful this time. Especially Daniel, he looked like a zombie in the end. It wasn’t so easy to manage getting enough days off from work; the typical shit you have to deal with if you’re not in a famous mainstream act. In the end I have never been that much happy with any record before. It simply sounds … huge… The production is perfect, that’s all I still can say.
Peoples and press reactions to the album were from very good to amazing, judging from what I heard so far.
You’ve also released a video for the track Like Red Foam (The Great Storm), can you tell a bit about it? It feels like it is touching upon political topics, far removed from the album’s theme. Do you face issues making a video due to the length of the songs?
Well, when we became aware of the fact that there will be a video of one song there obviously was only one choice. Like Red Foam is the shortest song of the album, so it had to be this one. I am happy with this choice, because I really like this song (in fact I totally didn’t care which one it would be, because I love them all).
So then we had to come up with ideas. As an underground band you surely can’t produce a € 100.000 video with ships, huge sea creatures and all that stuff. So it had to be something that works on the metal level. The only one who really was involved in the process of creation was Christian Hector. But the main work was done by a team of creative people. The other three of us were not really sure about what to contribute to a clip. It just was a very new thing for us.
What came out in the end is a really good clip that deals with a political topic. Which is no problem for me, because I am a political person. My problem here is that I just cannot find the connection between the clip and our music. I really don’t see it and therefore I don’t like the clip so much… Which is not a problem for me. In the end I have learned how to contribute to a clip the next time.
What made you chose The Boats Of The Glen Carrig as your literary inspiration for this album? Do you ever think of your music as a soundtrack for reading the literary works you use as inspiration?
Seen from our point of view it works exactly vice versa. Obviously the stories function as the lyrical groundwork for our album. They inspire us in mood and vibe. I don’t think any of us read one of the stories we used so far again, listening to the album that was written about this story. But, yes, I think one could easily turn the tables on this. For I am damn sure that some fans read and listen. Which means they ‘use’ our music as a soundtrack for those books.
It was also fan who called our attention to W. H. Hodgson (author of The Boats Of The Glen Carrig). Our bass player Stephan read some of his stories and especially pointed at this one to read. When all of us had read it, it had become very clear that this tale would make it. Perfect in terms of gloom and horror and with a message that comes across when you read between the lines. “Doesn’t matter who you are, within the elements fierce ire” is a line from Red Foam (The Great Storm) pretty much hits the bull’s eye.
What I definitely enjoyed on your album is how powerful the more clean parts sound and the specific gloom it evokes. Do you feel you are moving to a more subtle sound in that sense?
Well, if it comes to clean vocals Daniel obviously likes to surprise us every time for he never shows any single vocal line before entering the studio. This time he was even better than ever before, in my opinion. Next to the idea itself, clean guitar parts depend very much on the sound. During the last three years the guys bought lots of effect pedals and in my opinion, especially their non-distortion, sounds extremely profited from this.
Generally, I can absolutely not make any predictions for our future direction. I only feel what possibly can become during the very process of composing. And for sure we are not composing at the moment. I just assume that the fascination for sound in general will grow on in this band. And I surely expect Daniel to have great visions for his vocals in the future as well…
What song would you pick out as illustrative for your current musical course, and why?
That would probably be my favourite track To Mourn Job. I love its flow and diversity. From psychedelic to jazzy, from mellow to brutal. Everything Ahab is about is in there, combined in a very natural way.
What is the origin of your passion for the nautical theme and can we ever expect the concept album about The Rime of the Ancient Mariner?
Why not? Never say never! For I am a huge Maiden fan I’d love to have an album called The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, that’s for sure! The nautical theme just fits perfectly. When Daniel and Christian were writing stuff for their new funeral doom project one day they came up with this idea and the name Ahab. What was just a good idea in the beginning, became our trademark. Surely our personal obsession with the sea grew with Ahab. The sea itself is as well fascinating as its symbolism. Depth… Source of life… End of life… Philosophically looking at it, I could go on for hours now…
And to following on from that, what is the sea/ocean to you?
I consider my music as my personal Ocean. I need it to go for a swim, to escape from the main land called ‘daily life’. Without my art I am nothing, my life would barely make any sense. I never consider it just as music, it’s more like a cosmos. In the first place it is full of those people (= close friends) I create, play and therefore share with. And it’s not only the people. In this very moment I see flashes of grooves, tour busses, vocal lines, interviews, broken sticks, ear plugs, beer, time schedules, weed, clubs, cymbals, my dear, dear friends, cover artworks, laughter, more laughter, gaffa tape, writing sessions, listening sessions, recording sessions…
Those thousands of facet’s I swim through nearly every single day keep me alive, annoy me, give me peace, give me power, make me tired, make me awake, leave me clueless, give me enlightenment or just make me want to party! Some times are hard times, but I cannot live without it.
Doom metal has had a recent surge of popularity so with that in mind, what active bands are you currently listing to and why?
There are tons of great bands, so I have to pick some few ones:
The first one on this list has to be the mighty Black Shape Of Nexus (B.SoN) from Mannheim. These guys started about at the same time as Ahab did and we shared the stage at their AND our first live show ever. They play a very heavy and sludgy, sometimes a little psychedelic style of doom. I just got some rough mixes from their next album. As expected this one will be the shit! I highly recommend to check out these guys!
Esoteric probably are the most horrific band in the world. If somebody would ask me how a nightmare sounds I would give him a random Esoteric album. Besides, they are the best tour-buddies I can think of…
Omega Massif unfortunately split up. They played this more modern, postish, sludgish way of instrumental Doom. Karpatia was their last album and it simply was the best album ever written in this particular style. Everybody HAS to check this one out. Fortunately all of the members split up in different bands: Cranial, Blacksmoker and Phantom Winter which I also would recommend.
For Electric Wizard’s way to present themselves in public has become some kind of ridiculous to me (sucking at live shows, wearing SS Uniforms…) I have the perfect alternative to them. Witchsorrow from the UK play this very, very English Style of doom. And they are fucking cool.
Conan, the heaviest band in the world, also consists of a bunch of lovely guys we always love to meet and have some drinks with. My favourite album of these fine Englishmen is their second one called Monnos.
Monarch from France are very special. Their droning sound is being enriched in a very unorthodox way by singer Emilie. Also a big recommendation here. Besides, the guys are absolutely lovely folks of course…
There is so much more great stuff to discover. Old farts complaining about the scene just can fuck off. I don’t get which scene they are talking about, but it must be on mars or the moon. There has never been more diversity and quality than nowadays. You just have to pick the pearls from the dirt.
Cough, Yob, Samothrace, Monachus, Windhand, Jex Thoth, Obelyskkh, Chelsea Wolfe, Watered, Lumbar, Mammoth Storm, Generation Of Vipers, Grime, Whalerider… And these are just the more doom or post-like bands…. I could give you a huge list…
What does the near future have in store for Ahab?
First of all there will be a tour in the end of October/beginning of November with High Fighter and Mammoth Storm. For some personal reasons we will take a break in the beginning of 2016. And then we’re hopefully back on the road. For UK… France… There are lots of options and we’re about checking out which ones will work for us…
Interviewed by: Guido Segers